Officer Sentenced to 15 Years for Shooting Death of Black Teen
In a rare win for victims of police shootings, a jury sentenced former Texas Police Officer Roy Oliver to 15 years for the shooting of an unarmed black teenager. Oliver, 38, was convicted for shooting 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, an unarmed black kid as he and a group of friends drove away from the officer.
Analysts say the sentencing was a rarity, considering that police officers rarely face trials and even more rarely are convicted in police shooting cases. Prosecutors argued for at least 60 years incarceration for Oliver and felt 15-years was too short, but they also saw the sentencing as a victory for ever victim killed by police.
“This case is not just about Jordan. It’s about Tamir Rice. It’s about Walter Scott. It’s about Alton Sterling. It’s about every African-American … who have been killed and who have not gotten justice,” Jordan’s family attorney, Daryl Washington, said.
Oliver shot and killed Jordan when he fired at a vehicle he was a passenger in. According to court papers, Jordan together with his two brothers and two friends attended a private party on April 29, 2017. Midway into the party, someone announced that police had been dispatched to the private home where the party was in progress. Then the group dispersed and got into their car.
Officers had gone to the house to follow up on a call reporting underage drinking. They reportedly heard gunshots close by while trying to locate the owner of the house. Oliver returned to the squad car to retrieve his patrol rifle while his partner went to investigate the gunshots.
One officer who was with Oliver saw the group’s car reversing and banged at the passenger window, ordering it to stop. The officer approached the side of the vehicle with his gun drawn and the vehicle stopped. Then the vehicle slowly moved forward and the officer banged on the passenger window breaking it. Oliver then fired multiple rounds into the car as it passed by him and one bullet struck and killed Jordan.
Police shootings often come down to an officer’s word and if an officer says the victim lurched toward them or had a gun, jurors tend to side with them. As Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said, “At the end of day, officers in their badge and uniform enjoy the benefit of the doubt.”
“Unless we start holding officers accountable for using deadly force in a reckless manner, I think it will be very difficult to see changes in the use of lethal force at the outset,” Clarke added.